Nov. 17, 2005
My real awareness of the Big Game occurred in the fall of 1946 when, as a freshman in high school, it was a great thrill to have Stanford and Cal matched up in their great rivalry. Stanford had suspended football for three years with the impact of World War II, and did not field a team in the seasons of 1943,44, or 45. What was really interesting about this great rivalry was that a number of young Stanford athletes had been transferred over to the University of California into a very special U.S. Navy program shortly after Pearl Harbor. While there, the likes of George Quist, Dick Madigan, Fred Boensch, Jim Cox and "Babe" Higgins played at a high level and all lettered for the Bears.
When Stanford joyfully returned to the gridiron in Stanford Stadium as the "Indians" of that era and lined up against the Bears, those young men and a whole lot of others were really eager to get back into those Cardinal and White uniforms. Stanford put the Axe back in the safe that day with a 25-6 win over the Bears to complete a solid 6-3-1 comeback season.
That next year I was a junior at San Mateo High School and was lucky enough to get a job as a ticket taker at Stanford Stadium for the 1947 season. When it got all the way down to the Big Game, this Stanford team was shut out 0-8 for the season and no hope at all against a powerful Pappy Waldorf Bear group, which was headed to the Rose Bowl. Amazingly enough, this winless Stanford team led the Bears 18-14 with less than 3:00 on the clock. At that point an injured Paul Keckley pleaded with Pappy for just an appearance in the game. He did appear and the great Jackie Jensen hit him with a wobbly pass, which found Paul around the Cal 35, and he went the remaining 65 yards for an 80-yard winning TD. The Bears happily took the Axe back to Berkeley while a Stanford team in desperation watched its only win of the year disappear.
My dear friend, Don Klein asked if I would like to sit in with him in front of a microphone in the fall of 1964 back at Notre Dame. Don and I spent the next eleven years together with neither one of us ever missing a game. As it turns out, I am still sitting there trying to extend the wonderful message of great rivalries and college football at the highest level to, I guess, millions of listeners over a time span of more than 40 years.
Any number of truly great ones still lurk in the memory. How many ever forget Ferragamo to Sweeney in 1972 in the mud at Memorial Stadium? Two of my best friends ever were involved in that one. For "Chris" it was a terrible loss for Stanford. For Coach White it was a win at his Alma Mater he has never forgotten.
Two years later, with just :02 on the clock, Mike Langford exploded a 50-yard field goal into the wind at Berkeley to beat the Bears 22-20. It was one of the last big time straightforward field goals in College Football. All of the kickers today are "side-winders".
I am proud to say that every Head Coach at both Cal and Stanford has been a personal friend for almost 60 years, and it goes back to Pappy Waldorf for the Bears and Marchie Schwartz at Stanford. I have spent all kinds of time with most of the great All Americans. Sam Chapman, one of the greatest Bears of them all, and I were teammates when I played with the Oakland Oaks back in the 1950s. Bill McColl, Bobby Garrett and John Brodie were all fraternity brothers of mine. These are two magnificent schools, which hold center stage, not just in Northern California, but all across the country and around the world. They deserve one another.
A major part of my life over many years has been this wonderful and traditional rivalry between two great universities. In recent years I have been concerned by some rather ugly and distasteful aspects that have been introduced into this competition with disturbing language, signs, "boom boxes" and the like. Instead of a Blue and Gold "C" on Hoover Tower or a big Cardinal Red "S" on the Campanile, some real serious and costly damage has recently been done as a part of the "lead up activities" to the game.
This has long been a very honored and respectful tradition of two institutions that hold honored positions in the wonderful world of higher education. My wish is that a lot of young people would accept this rather remarkable relationship just as we have handed it to them, keep it that same respectful way, and pass it along with pride and honor to all those who follow them.